The 1911 is a funny thing. With more than 100 years of age on the platform, it seems that more companies are making these guns than ever before.
That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. What other technology developed before World War I is relatively unchanged and in such widespread use today? The car of 2015, for example, looks and drives nothing like the Model T.
STI International builds 1911-style handguns that run much the same as the original. There are new parts under the hood, but any doughboy sailing off to France in 1917 would recognize the gun for what it is.
Recently, I had a chance to test one of the STI guns: the Escort. This is my review.
The STI Escort is a compact handgun chambered for the original 1911 caliber: .45 ACP. The gun is relatively light and has a shortened grip and barrel to make it easier to conceal.
STI includes a number of nice features that help to justify its $1,299 price tag such as the company’s recoil reduction system, and its great fit and finish.
The Escort is made in the USA. Previously, STI had the Spartan model made for them in the Philippines. However, all current production STI pistols are made in the United States.
According to the owner’s manual included with the Escort, the gun is rated only for standard pressure ammo, not SAAMI-spec +P ammunition. While I tend to carry standard pressure 230 JHP loads in .45, I am a little disappointed the gun isn’t designed to handle the mildly hotter +P loads (21,000 PSI vs. 23,000 PSI.)
A single six-round magazine was included with the pistol. The stainless steel magazine was well built and without any obvious imperfections.
STI uses a forged aluminum, Officer’s length frame on the Escort. This helps to keep the gun light and compact. The frame is finished with Cerakote in a matte silver color.
Both the flat mainspring housing and the forward edge of the grip have a special texture that is machined into the frame. The texture allows the hand to move up and down the frame relatively easy, but significantly applies traction to any twisting of the gun in the hand.
The trigger guard is undercut to allow the shooter’s hand to get farther up on the gun.
Barrel & Slide
STI uses a 3.24″ bull barrel in the Escort. The steel slide has a matte blue finish. Adjustable three-dot sights are dovetailed into the top of the slide.
STI includes the company’s Recoil Master spring and guide rod assembly in the Escort. The Recoil Master system is essentially a pair of recoil springs with one nested over the other. The objective is to lighten the felt recoil from shooting the gun.
According to STI, the primary spring should be changed every 5,000 rounds. The secondary spring assembly (the Recoil Master) should be replaced after 25,000 rounds.
As with most 1911 pistols, the Escort has a pair of external safeties. The thumb safety is large and easy to manipulate. It is on the left side of the frame only.
The grip safety works as intended. It has a noticeable bump out on the bottom to ensure the safety is disabled when gripped. Both the thumb safety and grip safety prevented the gun from firing when engaged and allowed the gun to fire when disengaged.
The STI Escort does not use a firing pin block (aka – it is akin to the Series 70 designation.)
One of the things I found disappointing about the Escort is the trigger. Not the pull – it is fine. More on that below.
No, my disappointment with the finishing on the Escort’s trigger.
STI uses a plastic trigger. Using plastic for a trigger is nothing new, and I daresay it may be the most common material used to make modern handgun triggers. However, the finished appearance of this trigger was not close to what I would expect from a quality firearm, especially a $1,300 one.
When I first looked at the Escort, my eye was drawn immediately to the flash (excess material leftover from the molding process) on the trigger. The face of the trigger seemed ok, but there was an obvious amount of flash in the skeletonized area of the trigger.
To my eye, it was unsightly and not of the quality STI’s name would suggest.
I don’t know if this is one trigger that slipped through the quality control inspection or suggestive of the typical level of finishing associated with STI products. Regardless, I would not purchase a gun of supposedly high quality with such an obvious finishing mistake.
As I mentioned the trigger pull seemed ok to me. There was a small amount of take-up with a clean break and no perceptible over-travel. The pull seemed very good – better than many factory triggers – but not the best I’ve ever felt on a 1911.
On a 10-pull average, I measured the trigger pull at 4 pounds, 13.6 ounces. I used a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge to measure this.
This is a pain in the butt. Of course, most 1911 pistols are. In all honesty, the Escort is better than many others. You do not need a barrel bushing wrench, but there are still more steps and loose parts than one would find in a modern gun design.
To disassemble this gun, you retract the slide to align notches and then push out the slide stop lever (think 1980’s-era Smith & Wesson pistol.) Then, carefully push the slide forward and off of the rails. Even with care, the springs and plug are going to come loose some of the time. So, try to work over an area where parts are easy to spot.
Once the spring and guide rod assembly are removed, the barrel can be slid forward through the front of the slide.
Reassembly is pretty much a reverse of the above. However, I never quite figured the trick to get it to go together on the first try. Every time, I had to fiddle with the guide rod assembly to get the slide back onto the gun.
It does not help that the written instructions in the book are not clear and the video on the company’s website doesn’t appear to apply to this pistol. It is possible that I just did not find the correct video, but in my defense, the correct video probably should be on the same page that STI describes the Escort.
The owner’s manual tries to cover each of the different disassembly methods STI has developed for their pistols, but is a bit unclear in the writing and illustrations. And yes, there are more than you might think.
Warranty or Lack Thereof?
This one is unclear as there is conflicting information. In the STI manual, it states:
Notice of NO Written Warranty
Due to the complexities of complying with federal warranty law, STI International offers no expressed or written warranty on its products. We continually strive to stand behind our products and satisfy our customers, but we cannot make guarantees or warranties of any kind. Please contact us immediately should you experience a problem with any of our products.
However, the FAQ on the company website states, in part:
We unconditionally warranty our products for their intended purpose when installed properly. As with any product, abuse and normal wear are excluded. We stand behind our products and if you EVER have a problem with an STI, we are going to make sure to take good care of you!
I’m sure STI will stand behind the guns made by the company. However, having consistency between the website and owner’s manual would be nice – especially since the website can be changed in moments, while the printed manual in the hands of the owner cannot.
|magazine capacity||6 rounds|
|weight||22.7 ounces (unloaded)|
I was able to get the Escort on the range twice for target shooting and chronographing various ammunition loads. Velocity measurements are in the Ammunition Performance section below.
I ran a variety of loads through the gun including the standard 230 gr ball from Federal and Remington. All of the ammunition ran fine with the exception of a single malfunction with the Federal Hydra-Shok load. On the first magazine of this ammo, the fourth round appeared to hang up on the feed ramp of the pistol. I encountered no other malfunctions.
Small, light guns tend to recoil more than larger, heavier ones. With the Escort, there was more felt recoil than with a full-size 1911. However, the gun was still controllable. Any regular 1911 shooter will likely have no problems with shooting this handgun.
I am unsure how much the Recoil Master system reduced felt recoil and muzzle flip. It seemed to help, but that is purely subjective. I would like to test a pair of guns side-by-side – one with, the other without, the Recoil Master – for a better idea of how well the system works.
|Federal American Eagle 230 gr FMJ||738 fps||278 ft-lbs|
|Federal HydraShok 230 gr||795 fps||323 ft-lbs|
|Hornady Critical Duty 220 gr FTX||890 fps||387 ft-lbs|
|HPR 185 gr JHP||848 fps||295 ft-lbs|
|Liberty Civil Defense 78 gr JHP||1,725 fps||515 ft-lbs|
|Remington UMC 230 gr FMJ||742 fps||281 ft-lbs|
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.
I typically do not list group sizes to measure accuracy. Unless I bolt the gun into a rest to measure its true potential accuracy, I am measuring my own skill as much as I am the accuracy of the gun. That said, nearly all of my five-shot groups at 25 yards fell into the 2″ – 4″ range.
The STI Escort is a capable handgun with a number of nice features to catch the attention of many shooting enthusiasts. While I prefer not to carry a 1911 for self-defense, the Escort should serve anyone who does well.
Some of the finishing, like the machine work on the front and rear of the frame, is excellent. However, some things like the flash left on the trigger leave something to be desired. On the range, the gun was accurate and only had one malfunction in several hundred rounds.
It is up to you to decide if the gun is worth the $1,299 price tag. When compared to other 1911 pistols in this range, I think the gun compares well.
I want you, the reader, to fully understand any influences I have on me when writing a review. I hope that this provides you with the best possible information when making purchasing decisions.
The 1911 Platform
I have a mild bias against the 1911 platform as a self-defense tool, but not against the gun in general. The 1911 is a great gun, but I simply feel there are better choices in the 21st century for a personal protection handgun.
That doesn’t mean that a 1911 can’t, or even shouldn’t, be used for self-defense. Rather, I just think that there are better options. You may disagree, and that is perfectly ok by me.
I’m not here to tell you what to carry, and I simply want you to know that as a defensive firearm, I don’t rank the 1911 as high as other gun writers do.
To keep that bias in perspective, I happen to own several 1911-style pistols and like shooting them. The guns are great, just not my first choice for combat.
The STI Connection
I have no connection to STI. The company is not a sponsor or advertiser of this or any of the sites I own.
The gun in this review was a loaner sent to me by STI for another project. While I had the gun, I figured I would review it here.
Although the conclusions I reached are the same as those in my printed review in Combat Handguns magazine, this review is completely original. All photos are unique from any submitted elsewhere.